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Giving Residents an “Effortless Experience”

Giving Residents an “Effortless Experience”
We have all heard that it is far cheaper (and easier for that matter) to retain a current customer or resident than it is to acquire a new one. How much simpler life would be for your leasing staff if every resident renewed their contract year after year? Actually, if that was the case, your leasing staff may be out of a job – bad example, but I think you’re picking up what I’m laying down. The big question then is – How do we convince our residents to renew their contract at our property year after year? Customer loyalty, of course! It is so simple – if you build loyalty with your residents, then they will never, ever leave, right? So how do you build this so-called “loyalty”? Let's say you get your staff together and start discussing all of the ways that they can go above and beyond for your residents, so they put out a candy jar and a plate of cookies in the leasing office for all of the residents to enjoy. Each resident is sent a birthday card on his or her big day. When a resident experiences a big inconvenience, you issue them a credit no-questions-asked. After seeing a resident take one of those delicious chocolate chip cookies from the counter after they made a trek down to the office to make a rent payment, the staff says to themselves, “He is really going to enjoy that cookie. I bet he will never want to live anywhere else.” As you know, tha......
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Plan on Texting in 2014

Plan on Texting in 2014
Do you text your prospects or residents? Do they text you? Should you let them? You might already be researching those questions, which means you’re paying attention. With the move toward mobile everything, there are multiple ways to use text to your team members’ and community’s advantage. (FYI, Nielsen notes that of the 94% of people with mobile phones in the U.S., about 86% text with them. Frankly, I’m surprised it’s not higher. Even people with *gasp* flip phones send text messages!)  But first, you need a plan.  Write Down the Point of It AllWhat are your business goals (what do you want your team to accomplish by texting in 2014)? Perhaps you want to increase resident satisfaction with an amazingly convenient customer service experience. Maybe you want to help your team get more done in less time, like following up faster. With this in mind, you can start looking into the types of texting services out there.  Think Beyond Marketing. Think Convenience. Don’t assume that the only way to text your prospects and residents is through automated marketing messages. For example, after ordering contact lenses from 1-800-Contacts, I text a picture of my prescription for faster turnaround. Within a few minutes, their staff texts back to confirm if they will be shipping today or tomorrow. It’s amazing how friendly little conveniences like that can stick with a customer.  If you take a more personal, one-to-one  texting approach, here’s what you could do: Respond when prospects’ interest is highest - Say a prospect has a qu......
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The Cure For Move-In Hiccups

The Cure For Move-In Hiccups
We’ve all had those rocky move-ins where it seems as though one thing after another goes wrong.  These rocky move-ins tend to be rocky residents.  These are the residents who will call in a service request, then place a follow up call to the office a few hours later to make sure someone will be coming to their apartment home.  Or they may email the office and then immediately follow up by phone – just to double check that the email was successfully received.  Why do these residents over communicate?  It’s mainly because they don’t have complete confidence in the management team’s ability to properly address their needs. In an earlier blog post, I suggested that “reputation management” be replaced with two new words: prevention and recovery.  I think these same words can apply to every stage of a resident’s life cycle. Residents start to from their renewal decision within the first 7 days of moving in.  How is that possible?  Well, as a prospect, this person probably toured 4 to 6 communities before deciding where to live.  After weighing all of their options, let’s say they chose your community.  Now, if the move-in goes smoothly – lease paperwork is prepared, the keys work, the apartment home looks great – you’ve essentially made good on their decision to lease at your community.  You’ve left them feeling as though they made the right choice. Conversely, if the move-in doesn’t go so smoothly, each hiccup experienced during the process chips away at the resident’s confidence and p......
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You Received New Carpet! One Step To Improve Resident Satisfaction

b2ap3_thumbnail_resident-satisfaction.png

It is often said that a person’s decision to renew their apartment is decided not at the end of their lease, but at the beginning.  The first impact of the new apartment makes a big difference on their ultimate satisfaction, so making sure everything is perfect right from the beginning is key.  I found this picture recently of under a hotel bed, where it makes that extra effort to make the guest aware of what was done to create an exceptional experience for them:

b2ap3_thumbnail_resident-satisfaction.png

In the same way, for apartment communities there is a big opportunity on marketing what may not be obvious for the new move-in.  For example, did you have to change the carpet?  Did you have to change an appliance?  Was the unit painted during the turn?  Those may be expense items, and therefore a negative from a profitability point of view, but it is ultimately a positive for the new resident.  I would love to see a card similar to the one above that highlighted some of the big changes that happened to their apartment before they moved in.  And if there were no big changes, maybe a list that explains all the things that were done to make the apartment ready for them?  This way, the resident knows right from the beginning that the community is working hard to make the experience a positive one.

 

What do you all think?

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Two New Words To Replace "Reputation Management"

Two New Words To Replace "Reputation Management"
Reputation Management has been a priority focus for many companies this year.  And while it’s refreshing to see people finally “getting it”, the inevitable eye-rolling, boredom inducing, “enough already” side effect has started to set in.  You know, the one which makes every instructor speaking on the subject sound like Miss Swanson of the Peanuts cartoon (wah, waa-waa, wah-waa-waa, wah)? As someone who is in the Miss Swanson role, I’ve seen it all.  Attendees range from those taking it all in, feverishly scribbling notes and hanging onto my every word, to those who are so over it they will lose it if the phrase “reputation management” is uttered one more time.  I get it; we all have our limits and we can only take so much before we completely tune out altogether. The difficulty with “reputation management” training is that it is traditionally communicated from a reactionary point of reference.  What to do “when” a review has been posted.  How to respond “after” a complaint has been made.  As I’ve said to all of my classes, people go online for 2 reasons: to sing your praises, or to rake you over the coals.  And to that, I suggest that we start using these new words to replace reputation management…prevention and recovery. Prevention:  Not too long ago I wrote an article where I described a conversation I had with my father as a teen where I complained to him that my mother seemed to always be on my case about the same thing - cleaning my room. ......
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Top 10 Apartment Resident Customer Satisfaction Complaints

J Turner Research, a leading marketing research firm exclusively serving the multifamily industry, today announced a ranking of the top 10 apartment resident complaints, as revealed in an analysis of 10,000 customer satisfaction surveys completed over the past two years at communities nationwide. Results from the survey analysis were released last week at the National Apartment Association Education Conference and Exposition in San Diego. According to the analysis, apartment residents are most likely to complain about rental rates more than any other issue. In fact, rent rates were more than twice as likely to be mentioned compared to concerns over pet waste, which perennially rank high in renter dissatisfaction. Additionally, rent prices were almost three times more likely to be highlighted by disgruntled residents than noise, which did not even crack the top 10:             Top 10 Multifamily Apartment Resident Complaints: 1)    Rental rates 2)    Poor grounds / common area upkeep 3)    Disorganized staff / lack of communication with staff 4)    Quality of response to maintenance requests 5)    Overall customer service of management staff 6)    Quality of parking / parking availability 7)    Concerns over security / safety / lighting 8)    Lack of upgraded amenities 9)    Pets not on leash / poor pet waste removal 10) General lack of preventative maintenance Renter complaints regarding rates could signify a broader softening in rent fundamentals, which have enjoyed a relatively steady rebound since the beginning of U.S. economic recovery from the Great Recession. Following rental rates, residents are also most likely to be concerned with......
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Renewal Status: "It's Complicated"

Renewal Status: "It's Complicated"
A good friend of mine recently sent shockwaves through our circle of friends by changing the relationship status of his social networking page from “it’s complicated” to “in a relationship”. Now, you’d have to know him in order to understand why this was such big news to all of us. He is the epitome of a “non-committer” – the kind of person who floats from one thing to another; whether it be career, relationships – you name it. This man, my dear friend, is usually all over the place – jack of all trades, master of none. So, to affirm to the world that he had finally committed to something, or in this case someone, was truly phenomenal – and refreshing. For whatever reason, I tend to apply general life experiences to the property management industry. And this one is no exception. Imagine if your residents had to publicly declare their renewal status. Let’s say they were required to post a sign on their front door, choosing from the following options: “Weighing My Options”, “It’s Complicated” or “In a Relationship”. What percentage of your residents would commit with confidence, another year at your community? Would there be more residents on the fence? It’s no secret that residents are a fickle bunch. Some have no problem moving year after year, searching for the next deal or newest community in the area, despite the pain of moving. And with so many options available to renters these days, residents are hesitant to commit to another 12 months. Some even wait until t......
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Five Steps to Handling Resident Complaints

Five Steps to Handling Resident Complaints
Have you ever heard the statement, “Customer service would be easy if it weren’t for those customers?” Sometimes that is just too true, isn’t it?   After all we know that sometimes residents:   Don’t read their leases Don’t think their leases actually apply to them Cause the problem then get mad at you for the problem Can be unreasonable Can be dishonest And on and on and on and on   The challenge that you face is even if a complaining resident is all of the above, you still have to deal with the situation don’t you? In other words, the fact that a resident may be all of the above doesn’t mean that you can just “DQ” their complaints and brush them off. Well you could try but then you still have ‘Harold’ standing in the middle of the leasing office wondering why he can’t “speak to the manager!”   So what can you do...or what can you encourage your teams to do to manage these situations? After being in contact with thousands of people during my career, both onsite and at corporate, I have isolated five effective things that people can do when someone complains.   Help the customer feel important:   The most important “people-skill” that I believe all of us should learn is how to make other people feel important. If you are able to make an unhappy resident feel important, you will go a long way towards resolving any issues, even before you get to resolving the issue.   I ......
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Why Do Residents Only Say Something When They're Upset?


Have you ever noticed that you often hear from residents only when they're complaining about something?

I mean, when the grass is green and the flowers are blooming, how many calls are your offices getting saying "great job" on the landscaping? When the maintenance team fixes a broken appliance how many responses do you get saying "thank you" relative to the amount of service requests the team completes?

Until I better understood the psychology of customers, this used to bug me to no end! Then as I managed and trained I watched my people feel the same types of frustrations as well.

This short video explains a little bit about why customers only say something when they're upset . . . and what you can do about it as well!

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Underwriting for Reserves / Replacements and High Abuse Multifamily Properties

Estimating expenses is always topical around tax time, when deductions are on everyone’s mind. More broadly, both appraisers and investors find themselves with recurring questions in estimating what to include on the expense side in order to achieve the best possible projections for multifamily property valuations and operations. Below are some basic rules of thumb to keep in mind when estimating reserves and replacements or underwriting potentially high abuse properties. For the latter, due diligence discovery such as careful study of rent rolls and financials would help determine whether or not a given property should be considered ‘high abuse’.   Reserves for Replacements This category provides for the periodic replacement of short-lived items such as carpeting, window coverings, roof covering, water heaters and appliances. The annual figures are calculated by dividing the replacement cost of an item by its useful life.There are differences in opinion as to whether reserves should be included for newer buildings. For a new building include only those reserve items which will probably be replaced in the first seven years. This is most often limited to carpets, window coverings and garbage disposals. Do not take a reserve for the roof (the roof’s condition is still considered in the final value estimate, however), but some lenders require it. Include a reserve for the water heaters, especially if the water heaters are individual water heaters.   High Abuse Properties Today, Southern California apartment buildings can be divided into two categories: 1) those operated in an efficient manner and that earn enough income to make......
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